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Barker, William George "Billy" VC (Wing Commander)

Killed in Flying Accident 1930-March-12

Birth Date: unkown date (age 35)

Born: Dauphin, Manitoba

George (Jr) and Jane Victoria Barker (nee Alguire)

Jean Kilbourn Smith

Home: Toronto, Ontario

Enlistment: Brandon, Manitoba:

Enlistment Date: 1914-12-01

Decorations: VC, DSO & Bar, MC & Bar (2), MiD (3), CDGF, Silver Star of Valour (Italy) (2)

Victoria CrossDistinguished Service Order BarMilitary Cross 2 BarMentioned in DispatchesCroix de Guerre France

RCAF Station Ottawa
Wing Commander
Air Chief MarshalA/C/M
Air MarshalA/M
Air Vice MarshalA/V/M
Air CommodoreA/C
Group CaptainG/C
Wing CommanderW/C
Squadron LeaderS/L
Flight LieutenantF/L
Flying OfficerF/O
Pilot OfficerP/O
Warrant Officer 1st ClassWO1
Warrant Officer 2nd ClassWO2
Flight SergeantFS
Senior AircraftmanSAC
Leading AircraftmanLAC
Aircraftman 1st ClassAC1
Aircraftman 2nd ClassAC2
Service Numbers

Citation of Valour

Victoria Cross

The London Gazette—Supplement 31042, Page 14203, November 30, 1918

"Capt. (A./Major) William George Barker, D.S.O., M.C., No. 201 Sqn., R.A. Force.

"On the morning of the 27th October, 1918, this officer observed an enemy two-seater over the Fôret de Mormal. He attacked this machine, and after a short burst it broke up in the air. At the same time a Fokker biplane attacked him, and he was wounded in the right thigh, but managed, despite this, to shoot down the enemy aeroplane in flames.

"He then found, himself in the middle of a large formation of Fokkers, who attacked him from all directions; and was again severely wounded in the left thigh; but succeeded in driving down two of the enemy in a spin.

He lost consciousness after this, and his machine fell out of control. On recovery he found himself being again attacked heavily by a large formation, and singling out one machine, he deliberately charged and drove it down in flames.

During this fight his left elbow was shattered and he again fainted, and on regaining consciousness he found himself still being attacked, but, notwithstanding that he was now severely wounded in both legs and his left arm shattered, he dived on the nearest machine and shot it down in flames.

Being greatly exhausted, he dived out of the fight to regain our lines, but was met by another formation, which attacked and endeavoured to cut him off, but after a hard fight he succeeded in breaking up this formation and reached our lines, where he crashed on landing.

"This combat, in which Major Barker destroyed four enemy machines (three of them in flames), brought his total successes up to fifty enemy machines destroyed, and is a notable example of the exceptional bravery and disregard of danger which this very gallant officer has always displayed throughout his distinguished career.

Military Cross 2 Bar

Major Barker was awarded the Military Cross on 10th January, 1917; first Bar on 18th July, 1917; second Bar to Military Cross on 16th September, 1918;

Distinguished Service Order Bar
the Distinguished Service Order on 18th February, 1918; and Bar-to Distinguished Service Order on 2nd November, 1918."

Mentioned in Dispatches

MiD dates unknown

William George Barker, VC is the most decorated serviceman in the history of Canada:

  • VC - Victoria Cross
  • DSO & Bar - Distinguished Service Order
  • MC & Two Bars - Military Cross
  • MiD (3) - Mentioned in Dispatches
  • Croix de Guerre (France)
  • Silver Star of Valour (Italy, 2)

After World War I, Wing Commander WG Barker served in various capacities with the Canadian Air Force (CAF) including as commander of Camp Borden, from November 1, 1922 until January 14, 1924. Camp Borden is considered to be the birthplace of the Royal Canadian Air Force, which was formed on April 1, 1924

Wing Commander Barker resigned his commission Aug 19, 1926 and was involved in various aviation endeavors with Lt Col (Later Air Marshal RCAF) WA Bishop VC, but by January 1930 was working as sales manager for Fairchild Aircraft Canada in Quebec

On March 3 1930, hoping to sell a new trainer to the RCAF, W/C Barker flew an aerobatic demonstration flight of a Fairchild KR-21 biplane at RCAF Station, Ottawa. The aircraft stalled climbing out of a dive and crashed on the ice of the Ottawa River. W/C Barker was killed in the crash. from "Barker VC" by Wayne Ralph, Doubleday Canada Ltd 1997

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Previous Events

1918-March-08 Captain Survived


28 AC Sqn RFC

March 8, 1918, fresh back from leave, Captain WG Barker (RFC), anxious to get back to flying, survived a crash in Sopwith Camel B6313. After about 90 minutes flight, Barker experienced an engine failure. Unable to restart and with thick ground fog, Barker "dead-sticked" the Camel to a landing near the 23rd French Division Headquarters but it flipped over and broke off the wheels and propeller. Barker was unhurt but for his pride and the 28 Squadron riggers laboured hard for a week to repair B 6313 during which a more powerful 130 HP engine was installed to replace the factory original 80 HP

William George Barker was the most decorated Canadian war hero in the history of Canada

Born November 3, 1894 in Dauphin, Manitoba, he learned to shoot and ride a horse at an early age. In 1910 at the Winnipeg Industrial Exhibition, Barker saw a flying machine for the first time and was fascinated but flying was only a dream for a farm boy in 1910

In 1912, a teenage Barker, his uncle Howard Alguire and friend Duncan Leigh joined the Non-Permanent Active Militia (NPAM) in the 32nd Light Horse. When war was declared in August 1914, Barker hoped to enlist but his father wanted him to finish his last year in school. He agreed to do as his father wished, so it was not until December of 1914 that William Barker, Howard Alguire and Duncan Leigh went to Brandon Manitoba to join the 1st Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles

During training at Brandon, Manitoba, Barker learned that the Canadian Mounted Rifles would not be used as mounted troops but would fight in the trenches, so applied and was accepted to train as a machine gunner. He shipped out with his unit for England in June 1915 and then on to Belgium in September 1915

Hoping to realize his dream of flying, Barker applied to join the Royal Flying Corps in January 1916 was accepted and in February transferred to 9 Squadron RFC and became a gunner/observer. In April as a newly commissioned temporary 2nd Lieutenant, he moved on to 4 Corps Cooperation Squadron, which provided photographic and visual reconnaissance from Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c biplanes, usually in support of artillery units. Barker excelled in his new role and in July 1916 transferred to 15 Corps Cooperation Squadron, where he would remain for more than a year

Barker still dreamed of flying and received some unofficial flying lessons, possibly from pilot Lt AV Acland. He was posted to 8 Reserve Squadron in December for formal pilot training back in England just after being recommended for his first medal, the Military Cross. Barker proved to be an exceptional student pilot, completing his entire course in only six weeks. He graduated 14 February 1917 and by February 23 was back in France with 15 Squadron, flying his first operational mission two days later on February 25. Two and a half months after qualifying as a pilot Barker was promoted to the rank of Captain

Barker longed to fly a single seat scout aircraft rather than two seat observer aircraft but after nearly six months of service flying was sent back to England in August 1917 for a rest and to instruct new pilots. Barker wanted to fly, not instruct, so took the decision to be the worst instructor possible. His insubordination could have resulted in a court martial but instead he was transferred to 28 Squadron and flew back to France in early October 1917

This was the beginning of Barker's long association with Sopwith Camel B 6313, a challenging aircraft to master and the WW1 fighter credited with the most enemy aircraft shot down. Barker was not the only pilot to fly B6313, but no pilot other than Barker ever shot down an opponent in the aircraft and interestingly, Barker never shot down an opponent in any Camel other than B6313. His first victory in France with B6313 was on the morning of October 20.

His Squadron was transferred to the Italian Theatre to support the British Army XI and XIV Corps at the end of October 1917 and Camel B6313 was dismantled and shipped by train to Italy

It was during his service in Italy that Barker began to fly with CM "Black Mike" McEwen, later to become Air Vice-Marshall CM McEwen in command of 6 Group RAF Bomber Command in WW2

Barker was able to fly in Camel B6313 and achieve 46 victories in a year of flying operations

On his last mission before going on leave, Barker and Lt HB "Chink" Hudson flew together and shot down five kite balloons between them

Unable to transfer Camel B6313 back to England from Italy, Barker flew it one last time on September 29, 1918 on a test flight

The Royal Flying Corps was the air arm if the British Army and WG Barker, although he started the war in a Canadian Army unit, after his transfer to the RFC was considered to have served in a British unit and held army ranks during the Great War. In his later career, serving with the Air Force in Canada, he became a Wing Commander, the equivalent to the army rank of Lieutenant Colonel

Detail from book "Barker VC" by Wayne Ralph, Doubleday Canada Ltd 1997

Fairchild KR

Fairchild KR-34 (Source Kestrel Publications)

The Kreider-Reisner Challenger (later the Fairchild KR series) was an American utility biplane aircraft designed and produced by the Kreider-Reisner Aircraft Company, which was later taken over by the Fairchild Aircraft Company. Wikipedia

Wkikpedia Wikipedia KR 34

General Harold A Skaarup Web Page

CASPIR Aircraft Groups:
RCAF On Strength (1)
last update: 2021-11-01 23:49:52


Registration issued to Fairchild Aircraft Ltd. of Montreal on 7 March 1930.

Wednesday, 12 March 1930, was a typical, late winter day in Ottawa. Weather conditions were good, with the wind out of the west, and a high temperature of 7 degrees Celsius. The Fairchild trainer was flown from Montreal to the Rockcliffe aerodrome in the morning by Captain Donald Shaw, the Fairchild Company’s test pilot. The trip was uneventful, with the airplane performing as it should. Shortly before 1pm, William Barker, who had travelled to Ottawa by train, decided to take the airplane up for a spin. He had never flown that model aircraft before but liked to take every opportunity to fly to maintain his competency. Apparently, until he joined the Fairchild Aviation Company two months earlier, he had done little flying since leaving the RCAF in 1926.

Barker seated himself in the real cockpit of the small trainer with registration marking CF-AKR. He warmed up his engine, taxied into the wind, and made a perfect take-off. After circling the airfield, he flew to the north-east across the Ottawa River to the Quebec side. Turning back towards the Rockcliffe aerodrome, something went wrong. One observer, struck by the odd manner in which the airplane was performing, claimed that he had a premonition that something was about to happen. Flying at an altitude of only a couple of hundred feet, the aircraft swerved and then plummeted straight down into the slushy ice of the Ottawa River roughly one hundred yards from the Rockcliffe slip close to the aerodrome. Striking the ice nose first, Barker’s aircraft crashed onto its left side. The plane was a tangled wreck. One of the blades of the propeller was sheared off on impact, while the other was broken in two. The engine was jammed back into the fuselage by the force of the crash. Only the rear of the plane and its right wing were left relatively intact. Col. Barker was found still seated in the real cockpit, but he was beyond human help. His body had been crushed on impact, his head smashed against the dashboard of his control panel. Today in Ottawa History, March 2016

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